Once again this year, the Phillies are squeezing every last drop out of their international bonus pool.
The top prize this year is 16-year-old Dominican first baseman/outfielder Jhailyn Ortiz, a 6-2, 260-pound right-handed hitter. He is said to be the best power prospect among all of this year's July 2 signees, with CSN Philly's Jim Salisbury reporting the two sides have actually had a deal in place since the fall.
Ortiz has signed for around $4 million, but it won't become official until he passes a physical. Ortiz was ranked 6th on MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez' list, 14th by Fangraphs' Kiley McDaniel and Baseball America's Ben Badler had him 18th. Most expect the left fielder to become a full time first baseman, already possessing a larger body for a 16-year-old.
McDaniel gives Ortiz a raw power grade of 70, however, as Matt Winkelman noted on Phillies Minor Thoughts this week, Badler said Ortiz' stock has fallen quite a bit since last year.
The larger concern is his game hitting, as Ortiz struggled with contact at MLB events in February and March in alarming fashion. In BP, Ortiz has a sound swing and keeps his hands inside the ball, but it’s another story when he faces live pitching. He has trouble especially recognizing breaking pitches, so in games his timing gets thrown off and he loses his balance, waving through too many pitches. As one scout who liked Ortiz put it, "I’ve never seen him worse than at the MLB showcase. I was shocked. That wasn’t the guy we knew." Many others felt the empty swings were consistent with what they had always seen from him. The optimistic outlook is that he is still young and just hasn’t been seeing much live pitching, so if he learns to recognize a breaking ball, the power will take over.
Still, that may not be the red flag you think, given that the 16-year-old had an agreement in place months ago.
Salisbury article indicates deal was in place since last fall, imagine being the player in that scenario— Matt Winkelman (@Matt_Winkelman) July 2, 2015
In previous years he would have been at Phillies complex, but the new rules have outlawed that— Matt Winkelman (@Matt_Winkelman) July 2, 2015
Perhaps a lack of motivation and coaching could have had something to do with his recent struggles.
Here's video of Ortiz if you wanted a slight taste at his swing, which looks nice and fluid.
It appears as if Ortiz is either going to be a big star, or a big bust. If the $4 million figure is correct, it ate up almost all of the team's $4.7 million it had to spend (including trades for additional bonus money).
However, there was some more cash left to go around. Salisbury reports the team also signed Venezuelan catcher Rafael Marchan, a converted shortstop and switch hitter, and inked two other Dominican kids, middle infielder Keudi Bocio and left-hander Manuel Silva, to contracts as well.
Last year the Phillies signed Arquimedes Gamboa as their top international signing for $900,000, ranked as the eighth-best international player by Baseball America and No. 15 by MLB.com. He has played just seven games so far for the Gulf Coast League Phils' affiliate this season.